John Walsh: Dad, do you really have to do this to me?


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Spare a thought for Rain Price, 15, from American Fork, Utah. Every day he catches the school bus and his father, Dale, waves him off, wearing fancy dress. When his parents waved to him on the first day of term, to jeers from his classmates, Rain said he was mortified. His father took this as a challenge. For the next 179 days, he wore a different costume to wave in. He dressed up as The Little Mermaid, Batgirl, Elvis, Little Red Riding Hood and Princess Leia from Star Wars. He once bought a porcelain lavatory so he could wave at his son while sitting on it, reading the morning paper. I'm afraid years of therapy lie ahead.

* Much tut-tutting at the news that St Petersburg hopes to attract 3 million visitors by offering quickie marriages. Couples visiting Russia's second city can get a marriage licence in 72 hours, and spliced in one of its new registry offices. "It will not be a copy of Las Vegas, but something different," said a chap from the Russian Union of Travel Industry, guardedly. But the two cities have something in common: Dostoevsky. He was addicted to gambling, haunted the casinos of Europe, lost most of his money and wrote The Gambler to save his copyright from a rapacious publisher. He'd have loved Las Vegas.

* Basic diplomacy skills have deserted the NHS's brochure compilers. In a leaflet about healthy travel, co-sponsored by the Foreign Office, GlaxoSmithKline and the Royal College of Nursing, there's an image of a suitcase covered in national flags, each emblazoned with a disease. On the Polish flag is the word "Tetanus". The Poles are furious. "The risk of tetanus is the same all over Europe," fumed epidemiologist Pawel Stefanoff. "It is not justified singling Poland out."

* Best political anecdote from the Hay festival came from the TV election maestro Peter Snow and concerned the Duke of Wellington. Thirteen years after the Battle of Waterloo, in 1828, the Iron Duke became prime minister. Though a leader of men, he was not a natural politician. After his first cabinet meeting, he complained to a colleague that it had been "an extraordinary experience". Although he had been clear, he said, in giving his colleagues around the table their orders, some of the blighters had the cheek to insist on staying to "discuss" them...

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